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The Fashion District, in collaboration with the Fashion Innovation Agency, is pleased to announce the launch of the Manufacturing Futures 2021: Fashion District Innovation Challenge Prize, sponsored by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, on January 28th 2021.

Fashion District challenges are designed to find innovative solutions to current industry issues across retail, manufacture & design. Manufacturing Futures will give start-ups & SMEs the chance to win cash prizes, support, and the opportunity to pitch to some of the industry’s leading brands & innovators.


We welcome applications from tech start-ups who believe that their business has the potential to revolutionise any part of the fashion supply chain. All applications must feature the use of technology, but could be looking to solve an identified need in areas such as:

  • Materials Innovation
  • Processing
  • Transparency & Traceability
  • Waste Management
  • End-of-Use & Circular Economy
  • Supply-Chain & Logistics

This competition is now closed

Sponsored By



29 MARCH 2021

Deadline to submit applications.

W/C 10 MAY 2021

Shortlisted finalists announced.

24 MAY

Critical Friends Development Day where industry professionals will critique finalist's proposition across different specialisms before their final pitch.


Finalists will attend a development workshop which will be held in June.


Closed pitching event with the finalists to industry experts from IET, Make UK, IBM, H&M, Pangaia and the Fashion Innovation Agency.

Judges & Critical Friends

Danielle George MBE BSc MSc PhD CEng FIET

MANUFACTURING FUTURES JUDGE | Danielle George is a Professor Radio Frequency Engineering and Associate Vice President at the University of Manchester. She is currently President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Professor George is passionate about raising public awareness about the positive impact engineering and science has on all aspects of our everyday lives, as well as highlighting to young people the immense depth and breadth of opportunities a career in science and engineering can offer. This has led to her numerous current high-profile Ambassadorial roles.

Craig Smith

MANUFACTURING FUTURES JUDGE | Craig is the Research and Development Director at Pangaia with a demonstrated history of commercialising material and product innovation particularly within the sporting goods sector. With over 14 years experience in advanced development and research focused roles, Craig has worked on a number of high profile projects at brands such as Speedo, Lululemon, Adidas, Lacoste and most recently Pangaia.

Elise Fahlén

MANUFACTURING FUTURES JUDGE | Elise Fahlén is an Investment Manager at H&M CO:LAB, the investment vehicle of the H&M Group. Her previous experience includes managing the family office Curitas focusing on the start-up space, management consulting at the Boston Consulting Group, corporate M&A at SBM Offshore and Private Equity at EQT.

Jim Davison

MANUFACTURING FUTURES JUDGE | As Region Director at Make UK, Jim and his team help thousands of manufacturers to solve some of their biggest challenges – whether that’s how to benefit from Industry 4.0, actions to take on their Brexit journey or how to use the apprenticeship levy to upskill the workforce. A qualified Engineer, Jim has held manufacturing, production engineering and operations roles. He was also senior manufacturing specialist whilst at the Manufacturing Advisory Service where he delivered consultancy support to businesses which enabled them to make huge improvements in their productivity and competitiveness. Jim is a director of the Engineering Development Trust.

Luq Niazi

MANUFACTURING FUTURES JUDGE | Luq is the IBM Global Managing Director for Consumer Industries (Agribusiness, Consumer Products, Retail) and is responsible for industry strategy, solutions, offerings, alliances, centre of excellence, eminence and senior talent for the global Consumer teams serving our major clients and key geographies across all IBM lines of business. Luq is also a member of the IBM Global Management Board for Industries.

Matthew Drinkwater

MANUFACTURING FUTURES JUDGE | Matthew is a world-renowned expert in emerging technologies and their application to the creative industries. A specialist in immersive technologies (XR/MR/AR/VR), he and his team are building pathways for a truly digitised world. Named as a ‘fashion-tech trailblazer’ by Draper’s and a ‘pioneer and a visionary’ by Wired, Matthew has delivered ground-breaking experiences and a stunning range of projects that have captured the imagination of both the fashion and technology industries.

Roberto Battistoni

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Roberto is the Solutions Lead in Consumer Products for IBM working across retail and supply. Roberto’s role covers business development, innovation and sustainability; he shares his focus and passion between start-ups and established enterprises in equal measure. As part of the Distribution and COVID-19 response leadership sales team, Roberto is responsible for identifying innovation initiatives that could be significant for the industry and for IBM. Roberto has spent ~20 years working in Consumer Products, covering a variety of roles from Account Management to Project Management through to leadership. A contributor to Retail Week on the topic of sustainable purpose and technology Roberto is also a member of TLA Retail Tech and TLA Circular Economy.

Adam Mansell

MANUFACTURING FUTURES JUDGE | Adam is the CEO of UKFT. Having joined the industry 25 years ago, he has worked across a wide number of trade bodies, representing all aspects of the fashion and textile supply chain. Additionally, Adam is Chair of the Future Fashion Factory, Board Member at the University of Leeds’ School of Design Industrial Advisory Board, and Vice President of Ginetex, the international care labelling organisation, as well as holding positions at CAPITB Trust, Textiles 2030 and the Institute for Positive Fashion.

Anna Ellis

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Anna is currently Head Of Business Development at Making for Change, LCF, offering professional production and manufacturing services. Previously she was at CFE supporting businesses to develop strategies to enhance their supply chain and production management capabilities. With over 20 years’ experience in the UK and US, she has sourced and manufactured products in the UK, Europe, China, India and South America, with brands including Gloverall, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Gap inc.

Kate Hills

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Trained as a fashion designer, and with a background in working for several large brands and retailers in design and buying roles, I gave it all up in 2009 as I had become increasingly frustrated with the dependence of British retailers on Far Eastern suppliers.

Gus Bartholomew

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Gus is Co-Founder and CEO of SupplyCompass. After originally training as an engineer and going on to become a chartered project manager, he turned his attention to fashion supply chains. Identifying a huge need to bring automation and efficiency to the management of supply chains, he co-founded SupplyCompass—the production platform for fashion brands and manufacturers.

Thushara Sabreen

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Thushara is an alumna from London College of Fashion – MA Fashion Entrepreneurship & Innovation (Distinction), Accelerate Cambridge University Judge Business School and published co-author (The Book of Advanced Fashion Technology & Operations Management). Previously, she was the global wearable technology consultant to Stretchline Holdings (world’s largest narrow fabric manufacturer).

Rory Hugill

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Rory Hugill is an Innovation Analyst at Fashion for Good. Fashion for Good is the global platform for collaborative innovation in the fashion Industry. Together, we harness the power of innovation, practical action & collaboration towards a circular textile industry. Rory is responsible for scouting, screening and scaling innovators in the areas of sorting, textile recycling and plastics across the fashion industry. He works with innovators and other key stakeholders to drive disruptive change across the industry.

Elena Petrova

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Elena is an Investment analysts at Pangaia working alongside the finance team to keep current and potential investors up to date with new and existing initiatives as well as supporting sustainable strategic decisions in investment. Her background in business management, experience in investment banking and passion for fashion and technology bring value to the fast growing, constantly evolving industry where Pangaia is positioned.

Rani Saad

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Rani has built and invested in ventures for 25 years. He is an active deep-tech investor (with close to 30 investments), is co-founder and President of the Stanford Angels of the UK, and Founding Partner at Apex Black, a venture investment partnership.Rani recently helped found and manage a Berlin-based global VC fund.

Tom Fiddian

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Tom manages Innovate UK’s funding programme across the Digital Economy and Creative Industries. He has run a number of significant funding activities ranging from supporting Art & Tech start-ups, to incentivising and securing substantial FDI from large multi-national media and entertainment corporations. He was the lead author and strategist on the successful £33m “Audience of the Future” fund for immersive experiences in entertainment.

Tamsin Lejeune

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Tamsin Lejeune is the Founder of the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF), the global industry body for sustainable fashion, and the CEO of the Ethical Fashion Group and Common Objective (CO) a platform that helps fashion professionals to do business better. For 15 years Tamsin has been building a global movement in the fashion industry, spanning 150 countries. In 2015, Tamsin was named by Linked In as the most engaged woman in UK Fashion and Retail.

Andrea Crump

RETAIL FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Andrea leads on circular fashion at LWARB. Her role includes developing new strategies and policies to help London move to a circular economy and delivery of a range of projects with corporate fashion companies. Current projects include working with Adidas and Farfetch to bring circular business models to market. Andrea was previously head of the sustainability team at the London Borough of Sutton, delivering a wide range of sustainability programmes. She started her career focusing on marine pollution and beach litter. Andrea is a Chartered Environmentalist and has a Masters in climate change.

Tom Gaunt

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Tom is a European and UK Chartered Patent Attorney who primarily handles Mechanical, Electrical and Software patents. He also handles European oppositions and infringement opinion work, as well registered design filings focusing on technical products. Tom has an Honours degree in Biomaterials and a Masters degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Birmingham University.

Alan Hunt

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Alan specialises in commercial and IP law and provides advice to clients across a wide range of sectors including retail, fashion, hospitality, media and technology. He has experience in the protection and exploitation of IP rights and the drafting and negotiation of commercial and technology agreements. Alan is a founder of Lewis Silkin’s luxury and lifestyle group, The Collective by Lewis Silkin, which was launched in April 2019.

Viola Jardon

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Viola is the Accelerator Programme Manager at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, specialising in small business innovation and building international networks. As a core member of the Accelerator team, Viola provides business support to SMEs and entrepreneurs, enabling them to unleash innovation and maximise their sustainable impact.

Erik Bang

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Erik is the Innovation Lead at H&M Foundation responsible for programmes & partnerships related to circularity, innovation and research targeting the fashion industry. Erik created the Foundation's biggest innovation challenge, Global Change Award, and is responsible for selecting & growing early stage impact start-ups in circular fashion. He joined the H&M Foundation in 2014 to set up and run the new business area 'Planet' and frequently speaks in the media and at leading events such as SXSW, WebSummit and Hong Kong Fashion Summit.

Toni Allen

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Executive Director of the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET). Toni also sits on the Board responsible for International Operations, Strategic Marketing and Engagement. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and has over 20 years’ experience in driving integrated sales, marketing and commercial strategies to maximise B2B and B2C opportunities, launch new propositions and deliver sustained profitable growth in complex marketplaces. Working across global markets, she has driven multi-sector strategies in sectors ranging from Food and Healthcare to Education and Aerospace.

Diana Kakkar

MANUFACTURING FUTURES 2021 CRITICAL FRIEND | Diana Kakkar is the founder and chief executive of MAES London, a luxury garment manufacturing studio that specialises in designer womenswear. With over a decade's industry experience, she launched MAES London to help fashion designers make beautiful garments exactly to spec and in the most cost-effective way. MAES stands for “SEAM” spelled backwards. Previously she ran the atelier for a luxury LFW designer which caters to members of the Royal family and A-list celebrities.

Diarra Smith

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Diarra is currently Operations Director at Informed Funding, offering financial management and funding advice to ecosystems of over 4,000 early-stage SMEs typically at Pre-Seed to Series A. Diarra is also a venture scout for Backed VC, a human-centric venture capital fund investing in exceptional founders at Seed across Europe. With over 10 years of experience, Diarra is an ambassador for a global LGBTQIA+ professional leadership network and supports efforts to empower underrepresented entrepreneurs seeking to solve some of the world's most pressing problems.

Sachin Gupta

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Sachin leads IBM’s strategy in the global agribusiness and manufacturing industry. He works with CXOs to analyze industry trends, co-create business vision and enable seamless execution on their manufacturing or sustainability related outcomes. He is a thought leader with experience of upstream data and digital transformations, working on leading technologies in artificial intelligence, hybrid cloud, IoT, geo spatial analytics, blockchain and data platforms. Sachin champions sustainability, driving fresh thinking through the manufacturing and supply chain. A primary focus is to promote viable digital data platforms that can leverage partner synergies and transform manufacturing workflows for the ecosystem. In his 20+ years of career, he has been an entrepreneur, corporate strategist and agribusiness evangelist.

Elin Green

MANUFACTURING FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Elin specialises in circular material and product development. With a decade of experience working in fashion and textiles with British designer Ally Capellino and Ananas Anam, the creators of Piñatex; Elin has led projects for world-leading brands across the fashion, upholstery and automotive industries. She also has experience in working as a consultant and advisor for start-ups and is currently Materials Developer at Pangaia, with a focus on woven fabrics and leather alternatives.

Criteria, Eligibility & Terms and Conditions

We will be reviewing applications against 4 criteria:

Criterion 1: Solving an Identified Problem
An identified need and/or gap in the market.
An innovative concept with a clear solution.

Criterion 2: Potential to Scale
Strong plans for development and delivery

Criterion 3: Size of Market
A USP  that stands out from others currently in the market
Is it a growing market and a future opportunity?

Criterion 4: Leadership & Strength of Team
Exceptional entrepreneurship.
Relevant industry and/tech skillset within team or the individual.


To be eligible to apply you must have a tech-based solution, be a registered business, and either be operating in the UK or have plans to pilot/operate in the UK.


Click here to read the terms and conditions for Manufacturing Futures 2021. This competition is being promoted by Fashion District, 20 John Prince’s St, London W1G 0BJ